The Rape of the Unicorn - Edward Gordon Craig


2 pages


The Rape of the Unicorn

Edward Gordon Craig | 1916 | Marina di Pisa, Italy
Genre (as defined by the author)
They (The Fowlers), She, It (The Unicorn), The Butcher, The Child
Number of acts

The Drama for Fools is a broad cycle containing multiple interludes, including The Rape of the Unicorn. This cycle kept Craig exceedingly busy between 1916 and 1918. It was supposed to hold 365 short plays and be performed like a traveling show: each night, from 31 April to 31 March, a new play would be shown in a new location. Craig, who wrote his plays under the pen name Tom Fool, stopped writing before the cycle was finished and gave up on performing the play himself.

Nonetheless, he stored his drafts in three cardboard boxes, as a collection of typewritten notebooks containing many illustrations and whose covers display words written in colourful calligraphy. He cared immensely for these notebooks, as he improved, corrected, and supplemented them until the 1950s. This collection is today held at the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières.

The interlude plays with multiple symbols of the United Kingdom: the use of the British chivalric Order of the Garter “Honni soit qui mal y pense", “Rule, Britannia!”, the patriotic song closely linked to the Royal Navy, the Coat of arms of the United Kingdom, and the figure of “Britannia,” the allegory of Great Britain. The final scene may be an allusion to an anecdote of the former royal family’s heirs, the Plantagenets. At the start of the 19th century, Joseph Smart was a direct descendant of Edmund of Woodstock, first Earl of Kent (1301-1330) and sixth son of King Edward I of England. Joseph Smart was a butcher in Halesowen, near Birmingham, and was allowed, due to his lineage, to hang the Royal Coat of Arms in his shop.

Plot summary

A mythical animal is caught in a trap and dies

A Unicorn crosses the stage with a forest in the background, saying “Honni soit qui mal y pense." Three men are looking at it and discussing the best way to catch it. One of them brought a sixty-year-old Virgin woman who wears a veil, as the Unicorn is attracted by purity. The Unicorn feels the presence of the Virgin, draws near her, and puts its head on her lap. The Virgin signals to the men to catch the animal, unveils, and uncovers her true identity - she is Britannia. The Unicorn feels betrayed and dies of sorrow. The Royal Coat of Arms is lowered, and the Unicorn is placed opposite to the roaring Lion. A butcher’s shop appears under the coat of arms, and the butcher can be seen chopping meat. A child rings at the shop, and the butcher’s son's voice can be heard alerting his mother.

Related works
The Drama for Fools, Edward Gordon Craig1914-1918
Composition date

Publications and translations


Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.

  • Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.


Conservation place

Institut International de la Marionnette - Charleville-Mézières, France
Literary tones
Comical, Satirical
Animations techniques
String marionette
Not specified
Institut International de la Marionnette & Edward Gordon Craig Estate


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Didier Plassard